Gardening 101: Basics of Pruning Your Plants

pruning dead flowers from bush
Pruning is essential to keeping your trees, shrubs, and other plants happy and healthy. Here are the basics of why you should be pruning, and when to do it.

Pruning is an incredibly important part of plant care.

Yes, I’m talking about removing parts of your shrubs, trees, and other plants. I know that it seems counterintuitive, but giving your plants a good snip here and there will result in bigger, healthier plants.

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First of all, it’s important to understand why we should prune our plants. There are several different ways that plants can benefit from pruning.

  • Removes dead, dying, damaged, or diseased stems or branches
  • Encourages new growth
  • Helps maintain good air circulation
  • Prevents pest and disease problems
  • Controls the size or shape
  • Accentuates or encourages a desired feature, such as flowers or fruit

Pruning for Better Plant Health

As you can see, pruning isn’t just about aesthetics. It can also greatly improve the health of your plants when done properly.

Dead, damaged, or diseased stems or branches will stress the plant. Removing these sounds like a no-brainer, right? You don’t want your plant directing its energy toward them.

Regular pruning can also improve airflow and encourage better branch distribution. Plants need to breathe, the same way that we do! On top of that, a lack of airflow can also lead to dampness. If it stays that way for too long, dampness can lead to the development of fungal diseases or infestation of pests like fungus gnats and slugs.

Pruning can also help prevent other pest infestations, or keep those pests under control at the very least. Many insects are attracted to unpruned plants because they provide more dense shelter for them to hide in.

Altogether, you’ll wind up with a healthier, more vigorous plant that is more disease tolerant.

Pruning for Aesthetic and Production Reasons

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Of course, giving your plants a little haircut from time to time is also done for aesthetic reasons. It can be a great way to keep your trees, bushes, and other plants from getting too unruly. Pruning means removing unwanted shoots, and can help you keep a plant’s desired shape.

And when it comes to fruit and veggie plants, pruning can help you achieve a higher yield. For instance, when it comes to plants like tomatoes, pruning helps your plant direct energy toward producing fruits instead of producing more foliage.

This same concept applies to flowering plants, too. Pruning can help manipulate the plant to produce more blooms in many cases.

When to Prune Your Plants

Pruning your plants at the wrong time can definitely give you undesirable results. The right time to snip your plants will depend on the type, what you’re trying to achieve, and how much pruning needs to be done.

In general, late fall and winter are a good time to prune trees and shrubs, when plants are dormant. The key here is that you are pruning before the onset of new growth. Avoid pruning too late in the growing season, as this will encourage new growth that will die once the winter weather sets in.

The exception to that is for early bloomers. Trees and shrubs that bloom in early spring should be pruned soon after their flowers fade in late spring or early summer.

If you need to remove dying, damaged, or diseased branches, this can be done at any time of the year.

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